ST. MARY'S BLOG

SMCS. More Than A School.

The month of May is probably the busiest, event-filled month at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. Shortly after we wrap up our Talent Show and Spring Concert, we look forward to special events such as the May Crowning Mass, First Holy Communion, Athletic Banquet, Field Day, Art Show & Festival, Kindergarten Program, and End-of-Year Mass. Honor roll and academic competition awards are recognized throughout the school year due primarily to the number of awards our students earn.

The May Crowning Mass is a special Mass where we honor Mary our Mother. First Holy Communion, which occurs on a Saturday, is when our Catholic students in the second grade receive the Blessed Sacrament for the very first time.

We set aside an evening in May to recognize our student athletes and coaches who work hard and represent SMCS well in ten different sports in the Augusta-Aiken Middle School League. Field Day provides an opportunity for the entire school to have a half day of teamwork, a little competition, fun, and more fun.

The Art Show & Festival highlights our students’ artistic talents. This much-anticipated event gives parents, grandparents, and other family members an occasion to appreciate their student’s artistic talents.

The Kindergarten Program is a wonderful tradition that caps off our youngest students’ first year in the “big school”. Our End-of-Year Mass is always a special time for us to give thanks for our school year.

Although these events are varied, they all have one thing in common -- they bring us together.

I like to think of these and other events as opportunities for us to celebrate each other. They also remind us that, at SMCS, we are more than a school. We are truly a school family.

As we near the end of this school year, we begin to focus on preparing for next year and look forward to welcoming many new students and their families into our SMCS family.

Middle School Students Give Back

Our St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School football team is an impressive group both on and off the field. Their success on the field can be attributed to their training, determination, and athletic abilities. The team itself gives credit to their beloved coach Dan MacEachern, “Coach Mac.” Although he is a tough coach and sets the bar high, Coach Mac loves his team and the team loves him. Recognizing all that he has done for them, the team chose to do something special to give back to Coach Mac.

We recently learned that Coach Mac’s three-month old grandson was diagnosed with cancer. School-wide prayers began along with offers to find out how our school family can help. While all this was going on in the grown-up world, Coach Mac’s football team was discussing among themselves what they could do to help.

The team approached some football parents and told them they wanted to help Coach Mac’s family in some way, possibly a fundraiser to help with medical costs. The boys were only looking for the go-ahead to proceed with their plans. They wanted to do everything on their own. Before long, the team decided to host two events on one weekend—a Friday evening 80’s Dance for students in grades 6-8 and a Saturday evening Kids’ Night Out for students in grades 2-5. The team would raise funds by selling tickets to the events.

For both events the football team planned all the activities, created the decorations, ensured everyone was having fun, walked students to their cars, and cleaned up. The grownups only needed to be the chaperones.

The team raised $2,800 for Coach Mac’s family through ticket sales (160 tickets!) and donations. It was obvious to all that the weekend was more than a fundraiser. It was a way for the football team to honor Coach Mac and to thank him for all that he has done for them.

Middle School Rewards

At St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School, we like knowing that rewards come in different and, sometimes, surprising ways.

Fifteen of our 7th and 8th grade students took First Aid/CPR as their 9th period enrichment elective last quarter. Our school nurse, Mrs. Rhonda Wallace RN BSN, taught the class. Mrs. Wallace has taught many including ALL of our St. Mary’s school faculty and staff. (Note: The Catholic Diocese of Savannah, for which we are a part, requires first aid and CPR training for ALL faculty and staff.)

It was Mrs. Wallace’s first time teaching first aid and CPR to our middle school students, so she designed the class knowing that she would be teaching our students daily for nine weeks. She would be able to cover a lot of material in that time.

Let’s fast forward to the last day of the class…

Fortunately for me, my office was adjacent to Mrs. Wallace’s class. I had opportunities to see highlights of what the students were learning. I just happened to be in my office during their final class. Although the students spent time with hands-on practice during the nine weeks, Mrs. Wallace focused solely on possible scenarios--each with multiple issues--that required student teams to combine what they have learned to help someone.

I was highly impressed with our students’ ability to properly apply what they learned to help someone or even save a life. At the end of the class, Mrs. Wallace presented each student with their First Aid/CPR certificates and a starter first aid kit.

After class ended and as Mrs. Wallace was gathering her supplies, I told her how impressed I was with her students. Mrs. Wallace then said, “Teaching this class has been the most rewarding part of my career!” I was surprised by her statement because Mrs. Wallace has been a nurse for 27 years, including 25 years in Shock-Trauma ICU at a local hospital. Imagine all that she has done during her career, and all the people she has helped in those years. In that moment, she told me that teaching our middle school students was at the top of her list! Mrs. Wallace was also highly impressed with how well our students listened, practiced, and applied what they learned.

Mrs. Wallace is now teaching a new group of students this quarter. I expect that she will always remember her first 9th period First Aid/CPR class. I also believe that Mrs. Wallace's students will remember her class as well, especially since some of her students may be considering a career in the health care field.

I like knowing that our 9th period enrichment time is one example of how we strive to help our students prepare for high school and beyond.

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Mrs. Wallace also spent time in class talking to her students about the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible. She told them that story represents the purpose of the First Aid/CPR class. Learning how we can help others empowers us to step forward, help, and not just pass by someone in need.

9th Period Enrichment at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School

St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School has a 9th period enrichment time for students in grades 4-8. In grades 4 and 5, 9th period is a flex time where students can meet with teachers, work with enrichment resources in different subject areas, read, or participate in other activities.

Our 6th grade students participate in a 9th period Math Lab where they can practice math skills and be challenged with new skills using an interactive online math resource. Our students’ 9th period enrichment class also includes a focus on critical thinking, public speaking, Latin word roots, SAT/ACT vocabulary, study skills, guidance lessons, and study time.

Our 7th and 8th grade students can choose from a variety of 9th period enrichment electives. This quarter’s electives include broadcasting, creative mindfulness art class, crocheting (taught by one of our 8th grade students!), First Aid/CPR, Model UN, robotics, Spanish 1, and study time. Spanish 1 is a full-year elective for 8th grade students and is in addition to their weekly Spanish class.

Student Leaders

Our students are leaders. You are a leader when you show kindness and inspire others to do the same. One simple act of kindness, such as helping a classmate with a math problem, may inspire that classmate to help another classmate and so on. Or, your classmates witness your act of kindness and are more alert to opportunities where they can show kindness during their day.

As faculty and staff members, we strive to encourage leadership among our students by providing immediate and positive acknowledgement when we see students helping others.

Examples of kindness may also be shared with the entire school on Thursday mornings when Mrs. Webster, our principal, reads notes that were left in our “random acts of kindness” mailbox. These notes reflect small and large examples of kindness that involved our students, faculty, staff, or parents, both on and sometimes off campus. Our Thursday morning “mail” is a great way to start the school day and reminds us that kindness is both appreciated and the right thing to do. 

In addition to encouraging individual acts of kindness, we participate in school-wide community service opportunities. That is where our Student Council Officers take the lead.

Being a Student Council Officer is an important leadership role in the school. Your responsibilities include working with Mrs. Webster, Mrs. Fisher (assistant principal), and Student Council faculty moderators to determine how we can help others beyond our school family.  Our Student Council Officers, along with Student Council homeroom representatives, take the lead in communicating with all of the students and encouraging their participation.

We recently wrapped up a successful Toy Drive to benefit Fort Gordon’s Christmas House. Christmas House has an important mission to serve military families who need a little extra help during the holidays.

Our Student Council Officers participated in school-wide morning announcements and special segments during our Saints Morning News Show (directed/produced by students) to share information about Christmas House, its mission, and the Toy Drive.  Along with handmade posters strategically placed on the school campus, the hope was that our students would take the lead and share information about Christmas House and the Toy Drive with their own families. 

We are proud of our Student Council Officers and all of our students. We look forward to both community service and everyday opportunities where our students can inspire others through leadership.

Sixth Grade

It is a big school year. You are no longer considered to be an elementary school student, but you also may not be thinking much about high school. You are probably more excited about the sports and expanded extracurricular opportunities from which to choose. As teachers and parents, we know that high school is a mere stone’s throw from sixth grade.

At St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School, we want our students to be ready for high school and beyond. One way in which we help our sixth grade students is by providing them with additional opportunities to strengthen their foundation in the areas of math and critical thinking, gain more confidence with public speaking, expand their knowledge with Latin word roots and SAT/ACT vocabulary, reinforce study skills, and have guidance lessons.

As many of us can relate, math can be a love it or not subject. If you do not love it, you still need to have a solid foundation. With the guidance of our sixth grade math teacher, Mrs. Edge, our students participate in a ninth-period, semester-based Math Lab where they challenge themselves using an interactive online resource. As they correctly solve problems, the problems become progressively more challenging. For those who have some difficulty with a concept, the tool allows them to focus on practicing the concept.

While some of our sixth grade students are in Math Lab, others are in a class with Mrs. Webster, principal, that is focused on critical thinking, public speaking, Latin word roots, and SAT/ACT vocabulary.

Mrs. Webster challenges students to think outside the box and to step outside their comfort zone. For example, the public speaking part of her class includes extemporaneous (extemp) speaking or speaking in front of a group with very minimal preparation time. In Mrs. Webster’s class, you are given a topic by Mrs. Webster or one of your classmates and only 30-60 seconds to organize your thoughts. You are then encouraged to give an organized response followed by peer critique where positive or constructive feedback is provided in a respective way.

Mrs. Webster shares teaching the ninth-period class with Mrs. Hagler, our sixth grade English and literature teacher, and Mrs. Parel, guidance counselor. They focus on study skills and guidance lessons, respectively.

Encouraging our sixth grade students to challenge themselves and expand their knowledge base is just one way in which we prepare our students for high school and beyond.

 

Nurturing Spiritual Growth

Schools exist to educate. In theory, academics and students’ academic success should come easily for any school.

If we take the above statements one step further, should schools also exist to help students strive to reach their full potential? If so, can academics alone be the barometer by which full potential is measured?

Catholic schools educate by focusing on the whole student because a student is more than the grade he or she receives on a test or report card. A student is more than just an intellectual being. He or she is an emotional, social, and, most importantly, spiritual being.

At St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School, we do expect a lot from our students academically. We expect them to do their homework, be prepared for class, pay attention and participate in class, study for quizzes and tests, and do their best. We also expect that our students will listen to their teachers, treat others with respect, and be kind to all. As adults, we are mindful to model the behavior that we expect from our students. How can we expect our students to be respectful and kind to others if we do not do the same?

Our focus on the whole student is woven throughout our school day. It begins with morning prayers where we include prayer intentions on behalf of others because praying for others helps us grow as spiritual beings. As the school day continues, students learn and grow academically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually because their day is spent in a supportive and caring environment whether they are in math class, religion class, or on the playground.

Focusing on the whole student helps them strive to reach their full potential in school and in life. It’s what we do at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. All Day. Every Day.

Nurturing Academic Success

Seasons change, times change, and some things at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School (SMCS) change too. When reflecting on the changes this year, it is easy to see they have something in common. They reinforce our commitment to our students’ academic success.

Below are the Top 10 changes for which I am most excited. Drumroll please…

SMCS has:

10. Moved the after-school care program to a larger location which provides more space for quiet homework and study time.

 9. Hired playground supervisors for recess times. Our faculty now has a duty-free lunch time for planning or just having lunch together as a team.

 8. Installed all new playground equipment designed for a larger number of students to play on and have fun during recess. Recess is an important part of our day. It allows students to refresh their brains for the remainder of the school day.

 7. Introduced the NWEA’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Test for students in grades 1-8. MAP is a computer-adaptive test which measures student achievement and growth over time, regardless of a student’s grade level.

 6. Expanded the school by converting available space into two new classrooms. SMCS now has three homerooms in each of our K-8 grade levels with a preferred maximum of only 20 students in each homeroom.

 5. Installed lockers for grades 6-8 which allows students to be more efficient during class changes and to minimize the need for students to carry a large number of books.

 4. Introduced a mentor program for our 6-8th grade students. An administrator or faculty member will meet with their students on a regular basis to help guide them throughout the school year. 

  3. Added a 9th period class for students in grades 4-8. This class period provides students with enrichment opportunities including elective classes for grades 7-8. This quarter's electives include broadcasting, competition math, installation art, and a class focused on positivity. Eighth grade students can also choose Spanish 1 as their elective class for the year.

  2. Expanded our emphasis in the areas of critical thinking and writing to include more varied and creative problem solving throughout the school day. Three faculty members are also school-wide writing consultants to reinforce cross-curricular writing skills.

  1. Increased our resources in math to include school-wide computer-based math enrichment, a more challenging math series in grades 4-5, and a dedicated math lab (in addition to math class) in grade 6 to further prepare students for pre-algebra and Algebra I. 

Changes will always be a part of any organization, including a school. It is reassuring to know that although some things may change at SMCS, one thing will always remain the same. We will always be focused on what is in the best interest of our students. Here’s to a great school year! Go Saints!

Christine Sweeney, Marketing Director
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The End of an Era

Below is a sweet letter from St. Mary's parents, Joseph and Maria Novajosky. We asked if we could share it with you. You may want to keep the tissue box handy.

Eighteen years ago our son, Nicholas, started Kindergarten at St. Mary’s. Two years later, it was Jonathan’s turn, and seven years after that Timothy followed in his older brothers’ footsteps.

St. Mary’s School has been part of our lives for 18 consecutive years. In that time we have seen principals come and go, teachers shuffled around, a new cafeteria and gym built, and technology such as active boards and RenWeb introduced; we have attended countless first Friday Masses, pep rallies, sporting events, and field days; we have celebrated sacramental milestones of our faith – Reconciliation and First Holy Eucharist – with our immediate family as well as our church and school family; and we have followed the rhythm of a school year and a liturgical calendar – marking first and last days of school, feast days and holy days, Christmas vacations and Lenten traditions, and spring breaks and early dismissals. 

These past eighteen years have been full, and not always perfect, but going forth each day within a faith setting fosters understanding, forgiveness, contrition, spiritual growth, and love of neighbor. 

This month our son, Timothy, will graduate from St. Mary’s. He has been busy these past few weeks writing a country report, preparing a PowerPoint presentation, studying for exams, celebrating a soccer championship win, and looking forward to the traditional graduation trip to Carowinds. He’s experiencing everything his older brothers did, and the constancy of these traditions is a blessing.

We know the Graduation Mass on May 22 will be wonderful and moving, because it always is. But this time it will also be bittersweet. Timothy is our caboose, and his graduation marks the end of the line for our time here at St. Mary’s School. No more sitting in carpool line with the orange, laminated card (A20) displayed on the dashboard, or driving for field trips, or scrambling to find a shirt and tie for Mass uniform because we forgot it was First Friday. We will no longer look through the Lost and Found box for a lost sweatshirt, or figure out what to do between the half hour school ends and soccer practice begins, or listen to stories about epic football games lost and won on the playground.

We will miss it. All of it.

As parents, we wanted to give our sons the tools needed in life, to establish a foundation of faith and family they can always stand on, and it’s with both humbleness and gratitude we look back on these past eighteen years and realize that our parish school has helped us give this to them.

Well done, St. Mary’s, and from the bottom of our heart … thank you.

Sincerely,                                            

Joseph and Maria Novajosky

Random Acts of Kindness

It has been a many years since I was excited about going to the mailbox. In my younger days I may have been looking forward to my first magazine or a birthday gift from a relative. Although those days were decades ago, I am reminded of them when I walk through our school’s main lobby and see the Random Acts of Kindness mailbox. Why? I know there is special mail awaiting all of us.

The mailbox is strategically located on a table with a small tablet and a few pens and pencils. Interestingly, I rarely see a note being written, but there are always new notes in the mailbox! The notes may have been written by a student, teacher, parent, or a visitor to our school. The notes highlight an act of kindness by a member of our school family that may have occurred during a school day or even outside of school. At times there are cute notes that express how much a student loves being at St. Mary’s.

On Thursday mornings Mrs. Webster, our principal, reads the mail over the intercom. She does not focus on individuals or names; she focuses on the acts of kindness. So, I like to think that the Random Acts of Kindness notes are like little gifts for all of us. They both touch our hearts and are a great start to our school day. Below are a few notes that I wanted to share with you. I hope they touch your heart and make your day.

Critical Thinking with Robotics and 3D Printing

When you think of robotics and 3D printing at an elementary and middle school, you probably think they are high tech ways of having fun in the classroom. You are correct. You are also correct if you think they are opportunities to strengthen students’ critical thinking skills.

On a recent visit to the St. Mary’s Computer Lab, I had an opportunity to see our students in action as they were working with Lego robots. Working in teams of two, they were tasked with coding their robot to move a box an exact distance. When the robot stopped, the box would move forward ever so slightly. This slight movement would sometimes cause the box to fall ahead of the goal line. The student teams would discuss why that occurred and then make one or more adjustments to the code to successfully complete the task.

Since that day, our students have quickly progressed to successfully programming their robots to move through a tricky maze and to incorporate ultrasonic sensors. Think Roomba Vacuums.

What’s next?

The robots are now being programmed for a “search and rescue” mission. This task requires students to use various sensors as their robots move into different “rooms” to accomplish their mission.

Why do we have robotics at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School?

Robotics provides students with an opportunity to expand their technological knowledge while also strengthening important critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is required when each and every move the robot needs to make must be programmed. Critical thinking is actually required of all of us throughout our lives. Strengthening those skills helps us to process information more quickly, rationally, and logically and leads to improved decision making.

Critical thinking also comes into play for our newest technology addition in the St. Mary’s Computer Lab – a 3D printer. It reminds me of a microwave oven except it has spools of plastic string in it. It must also have some magnetic properties because our students are definitely drawn to it!

The 3D printer works with a design software program. Students design the item that will be printed and send it to the printer. If there is a flaw in the design, the students need to evaluate what happened and make the needed adjustments. Although robotics and 3D printing may differ, similar critical thinking skills are required for both.

We appreciate that we are able to increase technology opportunities for our students. I also appreciate that St. Mary’s does not incorporate new technology just for the sake of having it. We view technology as a resource to enhance and strengthen our learning environment. It’s a win-win.

Why our Students Love St. Mary's

At first I was reminded about our writing curriculum at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School when I saw the eighth grade persuasive essays hanging on the wall outside of Mrs. Weber’s classroom. Mrs. Weber, our eighth grade literature and religion teacher, tasked her students with answering the question, “Why should someone attend St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School?” While reading each essay, I enjoyed learning about what our most-senior and soon-to-be-graduating students love about our awesome school.

Below are snippets from a few of the essays. I hope you enjoy them!

Last year was my first year at St. Mary’s and within the first few days I had already met a lot of people and started to become good friends with some of my classmates. My family was assigned a family from St. Mary’s during our first year here that would help us out with anything relating to school, so I had already become friends with a few kids before the first day even started! – Ryan

Being at St Mary’s is like being a part of a big family. I could not be more grateful to have spent the past nine years attending this lovely school, learning my faith, being a part of teams, and always feeling welcome. Although I am excited to start high school, I will miss St. Mary’s. It will always have a special place in my heart. – Camilla

Being able to attend St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School has been a true blessing. The amazing people students meet and bond with, such as fellow students and teachers, make the school practically glow with a positive attitude. Another reason St. Mary’s is such an amazing school is the ability to fully develop and understand the faith and what God is calling us to do. Amazing academics, strong friendships, and the ability to understand God more fully are only a few features that make St. Mary’s such an amazing place. – Felix

St. Mary’s has a variety of classes including algebra, science, Spanish, and computer, just to name a few. In our classes we do many hands-on projects that test us mentally such as Future City in science and coding in computer. – Nick

St. Mary’s offers many opportunities for students to use their God-given talents in extracurricular activities. St. Mary’s has sports teams, academic teams, and cyber security teams. God gave everyone special talents and St. Mary’s gives our students a chance to use them. - Donny

There are also many sports offered at Saint Mary’s including soccer, tennis, football, volleyball, golf, cross country, cheer, basketball, and baseball. Playing a sport is a fun and easy was to stay active during the school year. It is also a great way to make friends with students from other grades that are on the team. Sports bring so much excitement, laughter, and joy to school. St. Mary’s has amazing coaches and they always do a great job of making sure the athletes are playing to the best of their ability. The teams always do so well in their games! – Gabrielle

It's Easy to Apply Online!

The registration season for our 2018-2019 school year is already underway at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. This season seems to be humming along with our new online application. The ease and efficiency of the online process is a win-win for parents, school administration, and the trees. And, our new families can be half a world away and register their children as easily as those already living in Augusta, Georgia.

New families register their children by visiting http://stmaryssaints.org/admissions/admissions. Once you are on the admissions page, just click on “online new student application and fee” to begin the process on RenWeb, the secure school management system that we use at St. Mary’s School.

As you complete the application (one per child), you will have an opportunity to upload any needed forms such as your child’s birth certificate, health and immunization forms, etc. After you submit the application(s) and $75 per child application fee, you will receive a confirmation e-mail.

The following are a few items that are worthy of mentioning:

-RenWeb is working on making their mobile platform fully functional.  Until then, we recommend that you use a laptop or desktop computer.

-Kindergarten students must be five years old on or before September 1, 2018.

-Space is limited. As of January 31, 2018, we will process new student applications on a first-come, first-served basis. So, the sooner you apply the better.

-GRACE Scholars scholarships may be available for families who meet eligibility requirements and demonstrate financial need. Please visit http://stmaryssaints.org/admissions/grace-scholars or www.gracescholars.org for more information. The deadline is March 1, 2018, for the 2018-2019 school year.

What happens after you receive the confirmation e-mail?

We will contact you to schedule placement testing. Kindergarten testing will take place in March 2018. First through eighth-grade testing will take place in May 2018 so students can complete as much of their current year’s curriculum as possible. Testing can also be arranged at other times for out-of-town families and in the event of schedule conflicts. You do not need to pay any additional monies for testing since the $75 application fee helps with that expense.

After testing, we will contact you to let you know if your child has been accepted. Once accepted, additional information may be needed (e.g. forms that were not previously submitted). The $350 per child enrollment fee will also be due. This annual fee helps offset educational expenses such as classroom materials, consumables (e.g. workbooks), online educational subscriptions, and technology.

If you have any questions during the registration process, please contact Mrs. Ryan in our School Office at 706-733-6193 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Star from Afar

I am not sure who is more excited about our newest tradition here at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School—our students or I. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the busyness of this time of year and lose focus on what Advent and Christmas are all about. So, having a life-size nativity and wise men in the school help students and grown-ups alike keep our focus on what this season is all about.

The entire school is participating in “The Star from Afar”. The event began with our principal, Mrs. Laura Webster, reading The Christmas Star from Afar by Natalie Ard to the entire school.

Each day one of the kindergarten through third-grade homerooms searches for the Star of Bethlehem. Once the star has been found, an accompanying bible verse is read by one of the students or, sometimes, the entire homeroom over the intercom.


Mrs. Hardy's first-grade homeroom
after finding the star

Life-size wise men are then moved by one of the fourth through eighth-grade homerooms ever closer to the crèche. The Maji will travel throughout the school and will arrive at the manger on the Epiphany.


Fifth-grade students moving the Maji

In focusing daily on the journey of the wise men, we are reminded in a life-size way that Christmas is about more than the presents we receive or Santa. Christmas is about the greatest gift of all – the birth of our living God, Jesus.

All of us at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School wish you and yours a blessed Advent and Christmas.

St. Mary's Spelling Bee

As far back as I can recall spelling was always one of my favorite school subjects. And, as a spelling enthusiast, I am a big fan of spelling bees, especially our school-level version of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

On the heels of our classroom-level competitions in grades 5 through 8, 14 classroom champions advanced to the school-level competition. Five of the 14 students were returning school-level spelling bee competitors, and two of the 14 students were siblings.

The students all seemed to enjoy participating in the event. They clearly understood the rules and were focused on the task. A total of 149 words were spelled correctly or sometimes incorrectly during 24 rounds of competition. The last two remaining competitors correctly spelled their way through the last seven rounds before the winner was determined!

This year’s St. Mary’s spelling champion is Charlie, one of our 7th grade students. Nick, an 8th grade student, earned second place.

Charlie will represent St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School in the next-level competition in early 2018. We wish good luck to Charlie and all the students who will be representing their schools in the next competition.

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Dr. Kathleen Haley, St. Mary's music teacher and spelling bee coordinator, extends a big thank you to some of our awesome 2nd grade students who helped set up her music room for the competition. The second-grade students also said a silent prayer for the competitors prior to the start of the competition.

Welcome to Our Open House!

It’s Open House time at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. It is definitely one of our favorite school events. We always enjoy meeting new families. So, you can imagine how much we look forward to an event where we meet many new families at one time.

Our Open House visitors may include St. Mary’s alumni who are looking forward to their children attending their alma mater, other Augusta families, and those who are new to the area. New families may include cyber professionals from Fort Meade in Maryland who will be working at Fort Gordon, medical professionals who will be practicing at area hospitals, and others who will be bringing their expertise to the many industries in our Augusta area.

As someone who was once new to Augusta, I can still recall the mix of excitement and anticipation that I felt moving to a new town. Now, many years later, I still find myself appreciating all that Augusta has to offer such as a family-friendly environment, nice people, and reasonable cost of living. I do sometimes slip up and call Pittsburgh home, but Pittsburgh will always be home in some way. And, as they say, you can take the girl out of Pittsburgh but not Pittsburgh out of the girl.

I recently met a parent who stopped by school for some information. He told me that he was doing the reconnaissance work for his family and getting the lay of the land before the family’s move to Augusta. Shortly into our conversation, he asked me from what part of Pittsburgh I hailed. Apparently 20+ years in Augusta cannot mask Pittsburghese--the official language of all things Pittsburgh.

As we prepare for our upcoming Open House, we keep in our prayers all the parents and families who visit us. We pray for a peaceful process as they determine the best school for their children. We pray for those who are new to the area that they soon call Augusta home. We also pray that the families who choose St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School look forward to becoming part of our family and calling St. Mary’s their school home.

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St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School is a kindergarten through eighth grade private, Catholic school located in the beautiful and historic Summerville area of Augusta, Georgia. For more information or to schedule a tour, please contact Christine Sweeney, Marketing Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 706-733-6193.

St. Mary's Art Studio

I enjoy visiting Mrs. Storer’s classroom, the Art Studio. There is always something new and creative in the works. In addition to new art projects for all grade levels, St. Mary’s students are spreading their creative wings and learning to appreciate art through art history.

Greeting her K-3rd grade students while wearing her “Question of the Week” hat, Mrs. Storer introduces an art history question. Not sure of the answer?  Just check the Art Studio’s ActivBoard for a clue. So far, Mrs. Storer has taught her students about prehistoric cave paintings, ancient Egyptian art, ancient Grecian art, and ancient Roman art. I cannot help but wonder, “What will next week’s question be?” 

Mrs. Storer would also like her students to appreciate that life skills are important in the Art Studio. For her younger students, she is focusing on responsibility and leadership. Students are taking turns each week being an “Art Teacher in Training”. One student at each table is responsible for listening extra closely to instruction, “shopping” at the Art Studio Supply Store for all the supplies needed for their table, and helping their table mates. This is a big job since they also need to work on their own art project. Mrs. Storer is pleased to report that we have some real leaders in our midst.

Mrs. Storer is focused on helping her older students understand the importance of individual traits that artists need as they embark on their creations. By focusing on the artistic process, she also strives to help her students appreciate how those same traits are needed by all of us throughout our lives.

Students work on an artist inspiration book. For a few minutes at the beginning of each class, Mrs. Storer introduces a quote on the ActivBoard and the class discusses it. The quote may be from a famous artist or other well-known person. It may focus on the importance of hard work, perseverance, confidence, and other traits that the author learned to appreciate in his or her life. The students then write it down in their book and design/sketch anything that the quote inspires.

Why is art class more than just art projects? In Mrs. Storer’s words, “Art is life and life is art. You cannot separate the two. As you grow as a person, apply all that you learn to everything that you do."

Encouraging Reading

The much-anticipated Storybook Character Parade happened today. As a follow up to their summer reading assignment, our first and second grade students dressed up as a favorite character from a summer read.

Mrs. Therese Rhodes, our St. Mary’s library teacher, along with our first and second grade teachers, saw the parade as a fun way to further encourage our students to be excited about reading.

As the “characters” paraded through the gym, parents and other students in attendance learned about the title of the book and the character.

 
 Mrs. Hardy and Her First Grade Students

 
Mrs. Rhodes, Mrs. Webster, and Mrs. Fisher
Library Teacher, Principal, and Assistant Principal

Watching the parade reminded me about a visit to Mrs. Tyre’s first grade classroom a couple of years ago. I just happened to walk by her classroom when the students were discussing a story they had just read. They were correctly answering questions about the characters, setting, genre, and other story elements. I was impressed. Excited about this experience, I mentioned my visit a short time later to Mrs. Wilkinson, one of our kindergarten teachers. She replied, “We do that in kindergarten too.”

Today’s kindergarten is certainly not the same kindergarten of my day. I only recall musical chairs and finger painting in my kindergarten class. I fondly recall finger painting because my mom told my siblings and me that finger painting was illegal in our house. I do not think finger painting should ever have been illegal, but I would support a bill that makes glitter illegal.

Although the Storybook Character Parade is over, we have the Kindergarten Halloween Parade, Third Grade Saints Parade, and Fourth-Sixth Grade Vocabulary Parade on the horizon. These and other activities during our school day show our students that school and learning can, in deed, be fun.

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St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School is a K-8 private Catholic school located in the beautiful and historic Summerville area of Augusta, Georgia. Please contact Christine Sweeney, Marketing Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 706.733.6193 for a tour or more information.

Grateful for Catholic Education

My husband and I took our first born, Connor, to college yesterday — Georgia Tech to be exact. When we left him, he had a smile on his face and an eagerness to explore his new surroundings.

It is hard to believe college has arrived. So many times I imagined how difficult it would be to take him to college. I was wrong. 

Taking your child to college is the easy part; leaving him there is the hard part.

On the drive home I was torn between being sad or… well, there was no or…

The bright spot in the day was that we would have our daughter, Leah, at home for two more years before it’s her turn for college.

I missed Connor this morning. I took heart knowing that he was most certainly enjoying his first all-you-can-eat college breakfast. I also thought thanks Georgia Tech… it’s your turn to feed him.

At work today, I saw some of Connor’s former teachers. They asked about Connor and were certain that he would do well at Tech. I, too, am confident that Connor will do well, and I give his teachers at St. Mary’s and Aquinas High School much of the credit for this confidence. I am very grateful that Connor received a well-rounded kindergarten through 12th grade Catholic education. Just as St. Mary’s prepared Connor for the rigorous college prep curriculum at Aquinas, I know that Aquinas has prepared him to succeed at Georgia Tech.

I smile knowing that Connor is prepared academically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially to excel in college and in life. I also smile knowing that I will see him in 50 days, not that I’m counting…

Christine Sweeney
Marketing Director
St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School
1220 Monte Sano Avenue
Augusta, GA 30904
706.733.6193 (office)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Summer Camp Fun

I confess… I am not a sleep-in-a-tent kind of camper. I have been known to joke that camping is when the hotel forgets to put a mint on my pillow. Since my budget rarely affords staying at such higher-end hotels, it is safe to say that I am a camping novice.

The camps that I do enjoy are the ones offered by St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. St. Mary’s just wrapped up its summer camp season. I had an opportunity to check in on the camps. They were all fun, high-energy, educational, and climate controlled.

Our summer camp season started with a Seashore Music Camp for pre-K4 through 2nd grade students. Dr. Kathleen Haley, St. Mary’s music teacher, designed the camp around movement, singing, and musical instruments. Some of the campers also chose to take an Irish dance elective as part of their camp experience. Dr. Haley’s daughter, Maura, taught the Irish dance class. Maura is a St. Mary’s alumna and Augusta’s only champion-level Irish dancer. Thank you, Maura!

Just as our Seashore Music Camp ended, it was time for CyberCamp. St. Mary’s was honored to be selected to participate in the Air Force Association’s (AFA) CyberCamp Program. Karmen Lowery, St. Mary’s computer teacher, and Dave Besel, Director of Information Operations for Chiron Technology Services, Inc., teamed up to offer this intensive camp at Chiron’s state-of-the-art training center.

On the heels of a successful AFA CyberPatriot Competition during this past school year, Mrs. Lowery and Mr. Besel wanted to continue to build on what our CyberPatriot students have already learned and introduce new students to the program. Similar to the CyberPatriot Competition, the camp focused on cyber security and taught 22 campers how to secure networks and harden operating systems. Our campers had fun, learned a lot, and are looking forward to another successful AFA CyberPatriot Competition season beginning in the fall.

Our longest-running summer camp is the highly popular Art Camp. Art Camp welcomed more than 50 campers who produced an impressive total of eight pieces of art each. Parents were invited to an art show and reception on the last day of camp. Thank you to Mrs. Jenny Storer, St. Mary’s art teacher, Mrs. Alice Hagler, and Mrs. Leigh McCormack, for all you do to make Art Camp such a wonderful experience for all.

When Art Camp ended each day, some Art Camp students and other campers participated in an afternoon Basketball Camp in the St. Mary’s gym. Campers learned about and improved on basic skills and had opportunities to scrimmage. Thank you to Jay Hagler and Maura Lammers, St. Mary’s alumni, for organizing and running the camp.

And, thank you to all of our campers. We loved having you at our summer camps and hope you continue to enjoy your summer break. You earned it!

Eat. Play. Learn.

Have you said good-bye to your “I will go to the gym regularly” New Year’s resolution? We have busy lives and probably spend more time juggling commitments than jogging.

Our children are busy too. In a typical school day they are juggling school, after-school activities, homework, and more.

For adults and children alike, the busier we are the less likely we are to make healthy choices and live a healthy lifestyle. It’s often easier to run through the fast food line or zip it in the microwave than prepare a healthy, fresh meal. And who has time to consistently devote 30 minutes a day, 4-5 times a week to exercise?

So, why am I writing about forgotten New Year’s resolutions, fast food, and exercise?

My guess is that you would not be surprised to hear there is a direct correlation between student wellness and readiness to learn. It’s hard to think when your body is focused on digesting cheese curls. Not only does nutrition play a key role in how our brains and bodies work, but exercise does as well. Oxygen does a body good. The more we move, the more oxygen our brains receive, and the better they work!

We take student wellness seriously at St. Mary’s. As articulated in our Wellness Policy, we are committed to providing a school environment that promotes student wellness through proper nutrition and regular physical activity.

How do we put this commitment into action?

Let’s start with nutrition.

Students learn about healthy eating and nutrition starting in our kindergarten classrooms. They learn about why we all need to eat right and are encouraged to bring healthy snacks to school.

We strive to provide well-balanced school lunch options in our full-service cafeteria. St. Mary’s participates in the national school lunch program so a healthy school lunch can be an affordable option for all. Our cafeteria is headed by Chef Roy Bates. He has been in the culinary world for more than 40 years. Chef Roy and his staff do a great job of balancing healthy options with tasty food that our students enjoy. Each day they offer our students a selection of fruits and vegetables.

After lunch, it’s time for an important part of our school day… recess!

When our students are outside, playing, and running around, they are having fun. They know that being active is a healthy choice. From soccer to basketball, tag to four square, there are always fun opportunities to get our students moving.

Students also have opportunities to be active in PE class and in their classroom with some activity breaks in the school day. Sometimes getting up and moving is also part of the learning process. I learned that they have a name for that—kinesthetic learning. Kinesthetic learning is a way of teaching through physical activity. Instead of sitting at their desks, students have the opportunity to learn while moving. 

When the school day is over, students in our after-school care program have time to play outside after homework and snack time, of course. And Fridays are a favorite because less homework means more play time!

More than 80 percent of our sixth through eighth grade students participate in school sports. This year, we also have twenty-eight second through eighth students training for a 5K in the Run Hard Running Program. For some, this will be their first 5K!

We like knowing that our students are equipped to recognize opportunities where they can make healthy choices. I also like knowing that we are never too old or too young to eat right, play, and learn.

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Please click here for St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School’s Wellness Policy.

To learn more about the Run Hard Running Team program, please visit https://runhard.org.